Allowing access to Facebook and Twitter in the workplace risks brand damage, cyberharassment, productivity loss and security threats, but EdgeWave Inc. lets companies tap into the power of social media while mitigating those risks.
Rancho Bernardo-based EdgeWave’s new cloud-based software as a service (SaaS), iPrism Social Media Security, is gaining popularity among industries that handle highly secure information. Those include the local government, school districts, health care and financial services sectors.
The software, released earlier this year, allows businesses to monitor, block, filter, edit and report social network activity through policy-driven controls.
Dave Maquera, president of EdgeWave, calls his software an “enabling tool” that doesn’t take anything away from social media’s capabilities — it just makes sure that activity on the networks are in compliance with existing company policies.
More than 76 percent of employers use social networking for business, according to a Proskauer International Labor and Employment Group survey of more than 120 multinational employers.
Competitors rely on the exponential growth of social media to gain market advantage, and ones that don’t use it risk losing their edge. Other benefits include brand visibility, exposure and employee retention.
Only 27 percent of businesses that allow social media access in the workplace monitor its use by employees, however, said the survey.
EdgeWave was founded in 1995 and has 6,500 customers and more than 200 partners worldwide. Its portfolio of social media, mobile device, email, Web and data protection technologies deliver secure content management.
While many cybersecurity companies focus on protecting networks from inbound threats, EdgeWave also guards the outbound side to target risky posts that leak company information, for example.
“That’s particularly important for things like protecting the brand, preventing cyberbullying or enforcing regulatory requirements,” said Maquera.
Getting bit by a bug isn’t as important as a company’s intellectual property going out the door, argues Lon McPhail, president, chief technology officer and founder of Cerver Systems.
“The outbound governance policy is extraordinarily weak in the industry,” he said.
The popular cybersecurity focus centers on preventing inbound viruses by picking the right business partners and firewall protection.
“But who is watching the outbound door? The answer is usually nobody,” said McPhail.
EdgeWave is trying to fill that void as the gatekeeper.
Some companies complain that they don’t know how to translate policy into actual action on the IT management side. As a result, they opt to shut off or block social media.
Maquera argues that doing so can cause them to miss out on some major business opportunities.
The McKinsey Global Institute found the potential to unlock up to $1.3 trillion of value annually through optimal use of social media across four global sectors: consumer packaged goods, retail financial services, advanced manufacturing, and professional services, according to a study released in July.
“The stakes are really big,” said Maquera.
Social networking sites can boost a company’s connection to its markets, increase revenue and improve marketing.
“You have a closer relationship with customers and an understanding of what their needs are,” Maquera said. “Customer service is more proactive and much more insightful than going through a call center when you have a problem.”
Social media’s evident economic impact is causing shareholders to put pressures on C-level executives to cash in on the trend, rather than ban it.
“We are seeing an initial uptick, but there’s a lot of confusion and indecision at the decision-maker level, from the C-level down to IT and HR policy administrators,” said Maquera.
He will be cited in an upcoming IT analyst report that implores companies to unlock social media access.
“The prudent thing to do is manage it because of the tremendous benefits. The reality is it’s out there and the reality is it has to be managed,” he said.
Some companies are not comfortable monitoring employees' personal sites, so they instead focus on accounts linked to the company’s identity or name.
EdgeWave also tracks just how much time employees spend on social media sites during office hours, whether it’s for work or personal activities.
Its application monitors content and reports on a sampling basis whether it’s a productive use of time when employees are tweeting or posting on Facebook.
Typical clients sign up for multiyear subscriptions and costs vary, depending on the tailored needs they request.
It’s up to the company to determine whether they want the software to monitor social media accounts used by employees for work, personal use or both.
Typically, a company will have an existing social media or Web usage policy, and within that will define what the appropriate use of the technology is.
“You can mate that policy with our capability with our systems so it can be 100-percent aligned,” he said.
Torrey Pines Bank has a policy where employees have to agree to let the company look at their Facebook page.
“I am concerned about the fact that people are so willing to share personal information on there. At one of our sister banks, someone’s wife was almost taken hostage because she shared all this information," said Marcia Charest, vice president at Torrey Pines Bank, who handles fraud and robbery at the bank.
When an employee posts about disliking the CEO, his or her address or their salary, that can compromise the security of a company, Charest explained.
Some argue that an employee’s personal posts on Facebook or Twitter should not be viewed by their company -- especially after work hours.
“The last time I checked, the company didn’t buy me. They bought my time for X period to accomplish a certain amount of work,” said McPhail.
A corporation incurs risk and liability by having access to an employee’s personal Facebook or Twitter accounts, he noted.
“It’s a very slippery slope. I would argue it’s a very dangerous place to be," he said.
EdgeWave doesn't craft a company's policy around social media, but its software does act as the tattletale if an employee violates it. In dealing with educated clients, however, Maquera has learned that most employees play by the rules.
“The way of viewing it is you have your social media life and then you have your company’s social media life. Companies have specific social media usage and tactics and strategies, and when you are playing in that realm, you behave,” said Maquera.
Junior high and high school students are still learning lessons when it comes to proper use of social media, however.
School districts, which are now distributing tablets to students, want to expose students to the content-rich interaction that social networking offers while making it safe.
Acting as the tattletale is necessary when cyberharrassment is involved.
“What’s happening is bad behavior,” said Maquera. “A lot of these schools come to us and said can you monitor and help us control cyberbullying?”
Its technology in schools helps identify high-risk students for suicide by finding certain keywords associated with harassment.
“There are cases here in San Diego County where cyberbullying has occurred,” Maquera said, declining to disclose client names.
The tool also helps pinpoint harassment in the workplace.
"We are asked as application provider to help enforce policy or just good hygiene around behavior. It’s getting very convoluted in terms of where you draw the line on security,” he said.
The software is now available as a standalone service as opposed to a bundled product, so Web filters or firewalls can be provided by another security company.
“You can plug in our product to existing security,” Maquera said. “It’s gotten very positive feedback from the marketplace and the analyst community.”
Its customer base is domestic but the company would like to tack on international clients. EdgeWave has more than 100 employees and is in hiring mode, said Maquera.
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Feb. 4, 2013 -- Doug Sherwin speaks with Teofla Rich, senior vice president and head of private banking at Torrey Pines Bank, about the recent consolidation in community banking, and how the third largest locally based bank in San Diego has been able to survive.